Validating Product Ideas

Through Lean User Research

By Tomer Sharon

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  • Validating Product Ideas Cover
  • Want to know what your users are thinking? If you’re a product manager or developer, this book will help you learn the techniques for finding the answers to your most burning questions about your customers. With step-by-step guidance, Validating Product Ideas shows you how to tackle the research to build the best possible product.

    If you’re building a product, you know that user research is important. If you’ve tried conducting that research, you also know that getting it right can be incredibly challenging. Tomer Sharon makes it much easier by answering some of the most difficult questions asked by entrepreneurs and product managers. This book has both the strategy and the tactics you need to learn to get user research right and build products that people need, use, and love.

    Laura Klein, principal, Users Know and author of UX for Lean Startups

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    • VPI000a: Front Cover
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    • VPI002: Figure I.1
    • VPI003: Figure I.2
    • VPI004: Figure I.3
    • VPI005: Figure I.4
    • VPI006: Figure 1.1
    • VPI007: Table 1.1

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    Table of Contents

    • Chapter 1: What do people need?
    • Chapter 2: Who are the users?
    • Chapter 3: How do people currently solve a problem?
    • Chapter 4: What is the user’s workflow?
    • Chapter 5: Do people want the product?
    • Chapter 6: Can people use the product?
    • Chapter 7: Which design generates better results?
    • Chapter 8: How do people find stuff?
    • Chapter 9: How to find participants for research?

    FAQ

    These common questions and their short answers are taken from Tomer Sharon’s book Validating Product Ideas: Through Lean User Research . You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

    1. What is lean user research?
      Lean user research is a discipline that provides insights into users, their perspectives, and their abilities to use products and then gives this information to the right people at the right time so that the research is invaluable for developing products. Lean user research focuses on answering three big questions about people: What do people need? (See Chapter 1.) What do people want? (See Chapter 5.) Can people use the thing? (See Chapter 6.)
    2. How is lean user research different than “regular” user research?
      Lean user research is mostly conducted by non-researchers who have burning questions about their audience (or potential audience). They want to answer these questions quickly, effectively, and on their own without hiring a professional. Lean user research is not perfect and can be at times quick and dirty, meaning some corners are cut. For example, since non-researchers might not have very good control of their body language, lean user research calls for more indirect approaches to learning. It values remote techniques over in-person ones (see Chapters 7 and 8).
    3. Does this book include everything I need to know about user research?
      No! This is a book for product developers and managers who are not skilled researchers. Therefore, research techniques are described in a relatively prescribed manner, skipping underlying factors, options, and dilemmas. The goal here is to help non-skilled product developers to do their own far-from-being-perfect-yet-effective research. If you want to learn more about research techniques described in this book, there are multiple excellent resources available. These are listed on the companion website at leanresearch.co.
    4. I prefer to spend three free hours on writing more code rather than reading yet another book. If I only have time to read one chapter, which one should I read?
      The short answer is Chapter 3 “How Do People Currently Solve a Problem?”
      The long answer is read the introduction first and then the table of contents, and see if any of the chapters discusses a burning question you might have right now. If so, read that chapter first. I recommend reading Chapter 3 regardless, because observation, the research technique described there, is a fundamental tool about learning from users.
    5. Should I read this book cover to cover?
      No! This is a “doing,” not a “reading” book. The best way to digest the content of the book is to first scan it to identify a burning question (or questions) you (or your team) currently have. Then access the relevant chapter, read its premise, roll up your sleeves, and start going through the steps while completing the activities described in them. Reading about these activities won’t get you anywhere. As Ric Flair used to say, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Or if you are not a pro-wrestling fan, “If you want to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk!”
    6. UX is about designing interfaces. Does this book include guidance on that?
      Heck, no! UX is about so many things: user interface, interaction design, user research, information architecture, visual design, content strategy, and more. This book includes tons of advice about user research; however, it will not help you with guidance on how to design screens and wireframes. Some of the chapters will help you get insights about your screen design (for example, Chapter 6) or your product’s information architecture (Chapter 8), but there aren’t any design guidelines in here.

    Excerpts

    Chapter 5: Published in UX Matters (February 8, 2016)
    Chapter 3: Published in A List Apart (February 17, 2016)

    Foreword

    I still remember when I started using Twitter in 2009. All this information from all my favorite people was in one place: dedicated feeds on TweetDeck for keywords, and conference hashtags I didn’t have the money or clout to attend. It was a rush. Then the cruft trickled in—humble brags, Internet drama, and inevitably, ads.

    I started looking at new sources of information warily, like a new piece of exercise equipment in the gym—”Ugh, I should really get on that.” Who has time to practice design when there isn’t even enough time to learn it.

    Enter daily briefs. Apple News, Nuzzel, Quibb, Hacker News, Pocket, Quartz, TechCrunch, Medium, Mattermark. Not to mention the office email threads and Slack channels. “Did you see what blah posted about blah blah?”

    Eric Schmidt said that every two days we generate as much information as we did between the dawn of time up to 2003—6.7 exabytes to be exact. What to do?

    Well, there’s a trick. There’s a pattern that can help us wade through the information ocean.

    There are two kinds of information: entertainment and knowledge. We know entertainment when we see it: Aziz, Jane the Virgin, your kid giggling uncontrollably when you say ‘Boo!’

    Then there is knowledge. We know that, too.

    The tricky stuff is the blurry in between. It’s the top 10 lists, the 5 habits of successful people, the “One thing you really must know to ________,” and it’s the link bait that poses as information for a better you, but doesn’t deliver on the promise.

    Validating Product Ideas by Tomer Sharon is the good stuff. In an industry filled with monster drinks and Soylent, this book is your bitter greens. And in a world abundant with ideas, the infrastructure to produce them, and the capital to fund them, Tomer offers perhaps the single most important tool—the ability to recognize ideas worth pursuing.

    Tomer’s motivation grew out of his own research. After hundreds of interviews with founders, venture capitalists, and product designers, he found them asking the same questions: How do I know who my users are? What do people need? Can people actually use the product? These are the questions that he guides readers through answering in a book that can be put immediately into practice in product development.

    This book is not fodder for cocktail conversation. You will not read it on the subway ride to the office and wow your colleagues with a tweetable headline for the company blog. This book doesn’t herald a new fad in design. Rather, it charts a course to master the fundamentals that are all too often overlooked.

    If you are new to product research, use this book as a primer. If you are a pro, use it as a gut check and a checklist. Use it to clear your head when you feel like you have too many opinions and not enough sound judgment. Use this book, and you will be practicing the hard and rewarding discipline of fast, high-quality, impactful product research.

    —Benjamin Gadbaw
    Designer, investor, teacher

    Testimonials

    It’s easy to say ‘Go talk to your users to find out what they want.’ It’s much more difficult to understand how to do this effectively. Tomer does a brilliant job of explaining how to do this, along with giving the reader a clear methodology and substantive examples.

    Brad Feld, managing director, Foundry Group

    For my money, there’s no one who knows more about conducting user research—or who’s better at explaining how to do it in truly ‘lean’ fashion—than Tomer Sharon. My advice? If you care about getting your product right, buy this book. (It’s worth it for the chapter on recruiting participants via social media alone.)

    Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think

    If you’re building a product, you know that user research is important. If you’ve tried conducting that research, you also know that getting it right can be incredibly challenging. Tomer Sharon makes it much easier by answering some of the most difficult questions asked by entrepreneurs and product managers. This book has both the strategy and the tactics you need to learn to get user research right and build products that people need, use, and love.

    Laura Klein, principal, Users Know and author of UX for Lean Startups

    Validating Product Ideas Through Lean User Research by Tomer Sharon contains new methods for understanding customers, gathering hidden insights, and ultimately building amazing products. If you’re a novice, this book will give you the tools to leapfrog your competition. If you’re savvy, this book will catch you by surprise with techniques you should have been using years ago. Overall, I haven’t been this excited about a Lean book in years.

    Trevor Owens, entrepreneur, founder, and CEO at Javelin, author of The Lean Enterprise

    Validating Product Ideas is a precision tool for crafting useful products people actually care about. This book provides step-by-step instructions in the core practices of practical user research, organized by the most necessary questions every startup founder and product owner should ask.

    Lane Halleyco-founder, Brooklyn Copper Cookware